An interview on the German mainstream TV channel ARD. The programme is called FAKT Magazin:
A recent interview on BBC World Service radio, on “World Have Your Say”. An interesting debate with some other former intelligence types:
Here is a quick interview I did about the EU’s new data protection measures, laws that will have to be implemented in the wake of Edward Snowden’s disclosures about endemic NSA surveillance:
This is an excellent example of how whistleblowers continue to make a positive contribution to society.
Below is some background material from my submission to the European Parliament’s LIBE Committee on the implications of the NSA scandal.
Here is a video link to the hearing.
LIBE Committee Inquiry on Electronic Mass Surveillance of EU Citizens, European Parliament, 30th September 2013
Annie Machon was an intelligence officer for the UK’s MI5 in the 1990s, before leaving to help blow the whistle on the crimes and incompetence of the British spy agencies. As a result she and her former partner had to go on the run around Europe, live in exile in France, face arrest and imprisonment, and watch as friends, family and journalists were arrested.
She is now a writer, media commentator, political campaigner, and international public speaker on a variety of related issues: the war on terrorism, the war on drugs, the war on whistleblowers, and the war on the internet. In 2012 she started as a Director of LEAP in Europe (www.leap.cc).
Annie has an MA (Hons) Classics from Cambridge University.
- The insider threat
- Free Speech Debate project
- Whistleblower discussion panel
- What whistleblowers want
- The value of whistleblowers
- The cost of whistleblowing
- The real purpose of UK secrecy laws
- Head of MI6 statement
- Early article on Wikileaks
- Possible whistleblower protections
- Failure of UK parliamentary oversight
- UK spies and the law
- UK spies: unethical and unaccountable
- Meaningful parliamentary oversight of intelligence agencies, with full powers of investigation, at both national and European levels.
- These same democratic bodies to provide a legitimate channel for intelligence whistleblowers to give their evidence of malfeasance, with the clear and realistic expectation that a full inquiry will be conducted, reforms applied and crimes punished.
- Institute a discussion about the legal definition of national security, what the real threats are to the integrity of nation states and the EU, and establish agencies to work within the law to defend just that. This will halt international intelligence mission creep.
- EU-wide implementation of the recommendations in the Echelon Report (2001):
- to develop and build key infrastructure across Europe that is immune from US governmental and corporatist surveillance; and
- “Germany and the United Kingdom are called upon to make the authorisation of further communications interception operations by US intelligence services on their territory conditional on their compliance with the ECHR (European Convention on Human Rights).”
- The duty of the European parliament is to the citizens of the EU. As such it should actively pursue technology policies to protect the privacy and basic rights of the citizens from the surveillance of the NSA and its vassals; and if it cannot, it should warn its citizens abut this actively and educate them to take their own steps to protect their privacy (such as no longer using certain Internet services or learning to use privacy enhancing technologies). Concerns such as the trust Europeans have in ‘e-commerce’ or ‘e-government’ as mentioned by the European Commission should be secondary to this concern at all times.
- Without free media, where we can all read, write, listen and discuss ideas freely and in privacy, we are all living in an Orwellian dystopia, and we are all potentially at risk. These media must be based on technologies that empower individual citizens, not corporations or foreign governments. The Free Software Foundation has been making these recommendations for over two decades.
- The central societal function of privacy is to create the space for citizens to resist the violation of their rights by governments and corporations. Privacy is the last line of defense historically against the most potentially dangerous organisation that exists: the nation state. Therefore there is no ‘balance between privacy and security’ and this false dichotomy should not be part of any policy debate.
Made by Adam Scorgie, who directed the cult film, The Union, his new work promises to be the film on the subject of cannabis prohibition. Thanks to the team for a wide-ranging, lively and stimulating interview.
If you want to support their work, click here. And the film will be released next summer.
The International Day of Privacy was celebrated globally on 31 August, with the cases of Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden bringing extra energy and resonance to the subject.
I was invited take part in a demonstration in Berlin, culminating with a talk at the hugely symbolic Brandenburg Gate. Here’s the talk:
Here is a video of a debate I was involved with about whistleblowers on the most recent edition of BBC debate show, Sunday Morning Live. The question under discussion: are whistleblowers heroes or villains?
BBC Sunday Morning Live from Annie Machon on Vimeo.
A shame that some of the studio guests used this opportunity to launch ad hominem attacks rather than focus on the key question, but I’m glad I could contribute.
My latest interview on RT about the German intelligence agencies’ complicity in the PRISM surveillance programme:
Edward Snowden’s disclosures first revealed that the NSA had been spying on EU institutions; cue German anger.
Then it was revealed that Germany is seen as a Class 3 partner in surveillance by the USA. This means that they are not deemed by the NSA to be intelligence partners but rather targets — in the same way as China, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. This means that on average half a billion German communications are hoovered up by the NSA every month. And this despite a strong constitution devised to prevent such excesses, as the memories of the Gestapo and the Stasi still resonate; cue German anger.
And now it appears that, despite their (unknown?) Class 3 status, the German intelligence services, the foreign BND and the domestic BfV, have themselves been main-lining off the NSA’s illegal PRISM programme; cue German.… political embarrassment.
With friends like the USA, who needs enemies?
As the old media propaganda battle inevitably heats up around the Edward Snowden case, I stumbled across this little American news gem recently. The premise being that potential whistleblowers are now deemed to be the new “insider threat”.
Well, the US spooks and their friends have already had a pretty good run through the “reds under the bed” of McCarthyism, political subversives, illegals, Muslims and “domestic extremists”, whatever the hell that really means legally. Now they’ve hit on another threatening category to justify yet further surveillance crackdowns. What’s in a name.….
Firstly, this is old news resurrected in the wake of the Edward Snowden disclosures to scare people anew. Way back in 2008 the US government wrote a report about “insider threats” and the perceived danger of the high-tech publisher Wikileaks and, in early 2010 the report was leaked to the very same organisation.
In 2008 the US government strategy was to expose a Wikileaks source so that others would be deterred from using the conduit in future. Well that didn’t happen — Wikileaks technologically outpaced the lumbering, brutish might of the US and sycophantic Western intelligence agencies. The unfortunate Bradley Manning was exposed by an FBI snitch, Adrian Lamo, rather than from any technical failure of the Wikileaks submission system.
What did occur was a muscular display of global corporatism, with nation after nation capitulating to take down the Wikileaks site, but mirror sites survived that pointed to Switzerland (which has a strong tradition of direct democracy, self defence and free speech and which remains steadfastly independent from
international diplomatic circle jerks the UN, NATO, and such like.
Now, in the wake of the Manning and Snowden disclosures, the US mainstream media appears, inevitably, to be trying to conflate the cases of known traitors with, you’ve guessed it, bona fide whistleblowers.
Cases such as Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen, who betrayed their countries by selling secrets to an enemy power — the Soviet Union — in an era of existential threat. They were traitors to be prosecuted under the US Espionage Act (1917) — that is what it was designed for.
This has nothing whatsoever to do with the current whistleblower cases and is just so much basic neuro-linguistic programming. *Yawn*. Do people really fall for that these days?
This is a tired old tactic much used and abused in the officially secret UK, and the USA has learned well from its former colonial master — so much for 1776 and the constitution.
However, in the CBS interview mentioned above it was subtly done — at least for a US broadcast — with the commentator sounding reasonable but with the imagery telling a very different story.
In my view this conflation exposes a dark hypocrisy at the heart of the modern military-security complex. In the old days the “goodies” and “baddies” were simplistically demarcated in the minds of the public: free West good; totalitarian East bad. This followed the mainstream propaganda of the day, and those who worked for the opposition — and the Soviet Union gave the US/UK intelligence axis a good run for its money — were prosecuted as traitors. Unless, of course, they emerged from the ruling class, when they were allowed to slip away and evade justice.
And of course many of us remember the scandal of the Russian spy ring that was exposed in 2010 — many individuals who had illegally been infiltrated into the US for decades. Yet, when they were caught and exposed, what happened? A deal was struck between the US and Russia and they were just sent home.
No such liberality is shown to true modern-day whistleblowers. Quite the opposite, with the UK and the US willing to breach all established diplomatic protocols to hunt down their quarry. This despite the fact that the whistleblowers are liberating information about the illegality of our own governments to empower all of us to act as informed citizens, and despite the fact that they are exposing global-level crimes.
Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden have risked their lives to expose the fact that we are living under a global police state and that our military and intelligence agencies are running amok across the planet, with CIA kill lists, renditions, torture, wars, drone strikes and dirty tricks.
Yet the West is not officially at war, nor is it facing an existential threat as it did during the Second World War or the so-called Cold War. Despite this, the US has used the Espionage Act (1917) more times in the last 5 years than over the preceding century. Is it suddenly infested with spies?
Well, no. But it is suddenly full of a new digital generation, which has grown up with the assumption that the internet is free, and which wants to guarantee that it will remain free without Big Brother watching over their shoulders. Talented individuals who end up working for the spy agencies will inevitably be perturbed by programmes such as PRISM and TEMPORA. Lawyers, activists and geeks have been warning about this for the last two decades.
By 1911 the UK had already put in place not only the proto-MI5, but also then added the first Official Secrets Act (OSA) to prosecute real traitors ahead of the First World War. The UK updated the OSA in 1989 specifically to suppress whistleblowing. The US has learned these legal suppression lessons well, not least by shredding its constitution with the Patriot Act.
However, it has neglected to update its law against whistleblowers, falling back instead onto the hoary old 1917 Espionage Act — as I said before, more times in the past five years than over the last century.
This is indeed a war on whistleblowers and truth-tellers, nothing more, nothing less.
What are they so afraid of? Idealists who believe in the old democratic constitutions? The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other such fuddy-duddy concepts?
Or could the real enemy be the beneficiaries of the whistleblowers? When the US government says that Manning or Snowden have aided the enemy, do they, could they, mean we the people?
The answer to that would logically be a resounding “yes”. Which leads to another question: what about the nation states — China, Russia, Iran — that we have been told repeatedly over the last few years are hacking and spying on us?
The phrase “pot and kettle” springs to mind. There are no goodies and baddies any more. Indeed, all that remains is outright and shocking hypocrisy.
Snowden has laid bare the fact that the US and its vassals are the most flagrant protagonists in this cyberwar, even as our governments tell us that we must give up basic human rights such as privacy, to protect us from the global threat of terrorism (while at the same time arming and funding our so-called terrorist enemies).
Yet whistleblowers who bravely step up and tell us our governments are committing war crimes, that we are being spied on, that we live under Orwellian surveillance, are now the people being prosecuted for espionage, not the “real” spies and certainly not the war criminals.
In the CBS interview, former US General Michael Hayden, ex-head of the CIA and NSA asked: “what kind of moral judgement does it take for someone to think that their view trumps that of two presidents, the Congress and Senate, the court system and 35,000 co-workers at the NSA?”
Er, perhaps someone who does not want to collude in the most stark examples of global war crimes and illegal surveillance? And perhaps someone who believes that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was set up for a reason after the horrors of the Second World War?
When the rule of law breaks down, who is the real criminal?
What we are witnessing is a generational clash, not a clash of ideologies. The oldsters still be believe in the Cold War narrative (or even “cowboys and Indians”?) of goodies, baddies and existential threats. The digital generations have grown up in the wake of 9/11 and all the associated governmental over-reaction — war crimes go unreported and untried, real civil liberties are an historic artefact, and the global population lives under Big Brother surveillance. Why on earth is anyone, really, surprised when young people of honour and idealism try to take a stand and make a difference?
We should be more worried about our future if the whistleblowers were to stop coming forward.
For readers who have not yet signed up to my monthly newsletter, here is the excerpt about Edward Snowden from my June edition, with a little update at the end:
The Edward Snowden saga is riveting for me on so many levels.You’ll no doubt be aware of the case, unless you have been living in a cupboard for the last few weeks. Snowden is the brave young NSA contractor who has blown the whistle on a range of global surveillance programmes that the Americans and the Brits have developed over the last few years to fight the war on terrorism spy on all of us.
The sheer scale of his disclosures so far is incredible and has huge implications for what remains of our democratic way of life. Just today more information emerged to show that the NSA has been spying on key EU institutions — which might go some way to explaining why so much recent EU legislation appears to favour the interests of US corporatism over those of European citizens.…
Pundits have been calling him the most significant whistleblower since Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers about the Vietnam war 40 years ago. But I would go further. In my view Edward Snowden is the most significant whistleblower in modern history because, while Ellsberg disclosed vital information, it was largely a matter that affected the Americans and the hapless Vietnamese. What Snowden has exposed, just to date, impacts all of us around the world.
Snowden has confirmed the darkest fears of legal experts, geeks and concerned global citizens about the sheer scale of the surveillance society we all now live under. Not only are our intelligence agencies running amok, they do so using the infrastructure of the global internet megacorps. What he has laid bare is the fact that we are all already living under full-blown fascism.
He played it so well with that early film stating very clearly his motivation to go public — to defend a way of life that he saw was under threat. He appears to have learned from the mistakes of previous whistleblowers. He chose a journalist who understands the issues and has the fire in the belly and the international profile to fight his corner. Glenn Greenwald is a fearless campaigning lawyer-turned-journalist who for years has been defending the work of Wikileaks, with the irony being that he is now the new Assange, being attacked, threatened and smeared for reporting the disclosures.
Of course, I and many other former whistleblowers have been swamped by the usual frenzied media tsunami, called up for interview after interview. For me this began just as I was about to turn in for the night at 11.30pm on 9th June, when RT rang me up asking for an urgent live interview just as the identity of Snowden was emerging across the world’s media. After a frantic 15 minutes sorting out the makeup and the tech (in that order, naturally), I was wide awake again and speaking on live TV. From that came a slew of other requests over the next few days, including many programmes on the BBC, Sky News, and multiple radio and newspaper interviews. I could barely find time to leave my phone and computer to get to the bathroom.… Then the wave receded for a few days before Snowden fled to Russia, when the whole cycle began again.
Reading about Snowden going on the run also brought back a number of personal memories for me. In 1997 I fled the UK with David Shayler only 12 hours ahead of his initial disclosures about MI5 criminality breaking in the UK media. We were pursued across Europe, and had a month literally on the run, followed by a year living in hiding in la France Profonde before David was arrested, pending extradition, at the request of the British government. He spent almost 4 months in a Paris prison before the French released him — their view being that he was a whistleblower, which was deemed to be a political offence for which France specifically does not extradite. We lived more openly in Paris for another two years, although David was trapped in France — had he travelled to another country the whole ghastly extradition process would have started again.
Well, there are worse places than France to be trapped in exile, but even so it was difficult for him. How much more so for Edward Snowden, whose options are more seriously constrained and who faces life in prison in the US if he is caught? Knowing the penalties he faces and being aware of the tracking capabilities and the ruthless disregard for the law and human rights of the modern US intelligence infrastructure, his bravery in exposing the global US surveillance state is truly breath-taking.
To finish, here is one of my recent Sky News interviews about the Edward Snowden case:
Addendum: today’s news told us that Bolivian President, Evo Morales’s official, diplomatically protected, plane have been barred from flying home from Moscow over much of Euro airspace, where he had been participating in high-level talks. The reason being that Edward Snowden might have been be on board. Morales was grounded in Austria and had to submit to a police search of the plane, against all diplomatic protocol. No Snowden was found, naturally.
I see this as a very clever move by persons unknown — testing exactly what the international response would be if Edward Snowden tries to fly out of Russia. And the Europeans, under undoubted pressure from the US, have fallen for it hook, line and sinker.
The US-Euro complicit patsies have been flushed out by this diplomatic scandal. Demonstrations are apparently already occurring against the French embassy in Bolivia. And this on the same day that the French President, Francois Hollande, used the Snowden disclosures to delay the rightly-maligned US-EU trade agreement.
So, even as the French use the Snowden disclosures for political advantage, they apparently refuse to assist the source. Which is unfortunate — my memory of French law is that whistleblowing is deemed a political act and the French specifically do not extradite for alleged political offences.
Perhaps the French constitution and law have changed since Sarkozy took France into NATO.…
In the wake of the global impact of the ongoing Edward Snowden saga, a smaller but still important whistleblower story flared and faded last week in the UK media.
Peter Francis revealed that 20 years ago he had worked as an undercover cop in the Metropolitan Police Force’s secret Special Demonstrations Squad (SDS) section. In this role, Francis stated that he was tasked to dig up dirt with which the Met could discredit the family of murdered black teenager, Stephen Lawrence and thereby derail their campaign for a full and effective police investigation into his death. The Lawrence family correctly believed that the original investigation had been fumbled because of institutional police racism at that time.
The fact that secret police were posing as activists to infiltrate protest groups will come as no shock after the cascade of revelations about secret policemen in 2011, starting with DC Mark Kennedy/environmental activist “Mark Stone”. Kennedy was uncovered by his “fellow” activists, and nine more quickly emerged in the wake of that scandal. This has resulted in an enquiry into the shadowy activities of these most secret officers, accusations that the Crown Prosecution Service suppressed key evidence in criminal trials, and a slew of court cases brought by women whom these (predominantly male) police officers seduced.
But the disclosures of Peter Francis plumb new depths. In the wake of the Stephen Lawrence murder, many left-wing and anti-Nazi groups jumped on the bandwagon, organising demonstrations and provoking confrontations with the far-right British National Party. There was a clash near the BNP’s bookshop in south London in 1993. So, sure, the Met Police could potentially just about argue that the undercover officers were trying to gather advance intelligence to prevent public disorder and rioting, although the sheer scale of the operation was utterly disproportionate.
However, what is completely beyond the Pale is this apparent attempt to smear the traumatised family of a murder victim in order to derail their campaign for justice.
The role of undercover cops spying on their fellow citizens who are politically active is distasteful in a democracy. And the fact that, until the original scandal broke in 2011, the reconstituted SDS continued to target peace and environmental protest groups who offered no threat whatsoever to national security is disgraceful — it smacks of the Stasi in East Germany.
To make matters even worse, when details emerged two years ago, it became apparent that the SDS Version 2.0 was operating outside the formal hierarchy of the police, with what little democratic oversight that would provide. In fact, it emerged that the SDS been renamed the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU) and had for years been the private fiefdom of a private limited company — the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO). Within a notional democracy, this is just gobsmacking.
So how did this mess evolve?
From the late 19th century the Metropolitan Police Special Branch investigated terrorism while MI5, established in 1909, was a counter-intelligence unit focusing on espionage and political “subversion”. The switch began in 1992 when Dame Stella Rimington, then head of MI5, effected a Whitehall coup and stole primacy for investigating Irish terrorism from the Met. As a result MI5 magically discovered that subversion was not such a threat after all – this revelation only three years after the Berlin Wall came down – and transferred all its staff over to the new, sexy counter-terrorism sections. Since then, MI5 has been eagerly building its counter-terrorism empire, despite this being more obviously evidential police work.
Special Branch was relegated to a supporting role, dabbling in organised crime and animal rights activists, but not terribly excited about either. Its prestige had been seriously dented. It also had a group of experienced undercover cops – known then to MI5 as the Special Duties Section – with time on their hands.
It should therefore come as little surprise that ACPO came up with the brilliant idea of using this skill-set against UK “domestic extremists”. It renamed the SDS as the NPOIU, which first focused primarily on potentially violent animal rights activists, but mission creep rapidly set in and the unit’s role expanded into peaceful protest groups. When this unaccountable unit was revealed it rightly caused an outcry, especially as the term “domestic extremist” is not recognised under UK law, and cannot legally be used as justification to aggressively invade an individual’s privacy because of their legitimate political beliefs and activism.
So, as the police become ever more spooky, what of MI5?
As I mentioned, they have been aggressively hoovering up the prestigious counter-terrorism work. But, despite what the Americans have hysterically asserted since 9/11, terrorism is not some unique form of “eviltude”. It is a crime – a hideous, shocking one, but still a crime that should be investigated, with evidence gathered, due process applied and the suspects on trial in front of a jury.
A mature democracy that respects human rights and the rule of law should not intern suspects or render them to secret prisons and torture them for years. And yet this is precisely what our spooks have been doing – particularly when colluding with their US counterparts.
Also, MI5 and MI6 have for years operated outside any realistic democratic oversight and control. Until this year, the remit of the Intelligence and Security Committee in Parliament has only covered the policy, administration and finance of the spies. Since the committee’s inception in 1994 it has repeatedly failed to meaningfully address more serious questions about the spies’ role, and has been repeatedly lied to by senior spies and police officers.
The spooks are effectively above the law, while at the same time protected by the draconian Official Secrets Act. This makes the abuses of the NPOIU seem almost quaint. So what to do? A good first step might be to have an informed discussion about the realistic threats to the UK. The police and spies huddle behind the protective phrase “national security”. But what does this mean?
The core idea should be safeguarding the nation’s integrity. A group of well-meaning environmental protesters should not even be on the radar. And, no matter how awful, the occasional terrorist attack is not an existential threat to the fabric of the nation in the way of, say, the planned Nazi invasion in 1940. Nor is it even close to the sustained bombing of government, infrastructure and military targets by the Provisional IRA in the 1970s-90s.
Only once we understand the real threats can we as a nation discuss the necessary steps to take to protect ourselves effectively; what measures should be taken, what liberties occasionally and legally compromised, and what democratic accountability exists to ensure that the security forces do not exceed their remit and work within the law.
It is only by going through this process that can we ensure such scandals as the secret police will remain firmly in the past. And in the wake not only of Peter Francis’s confessions but the sheer scale of the endemic electronic surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden, this long-overdue national debate becomes ever more necessary.
I have held back from writing about the Edward Snowden NSA whistleblowing case for the last week — partly because I was immersed in the resulting media interviews and talks, and partly because I wanted to watch how the story developed, both politically and in the old media. The reaction of both can tell you a lot.
That does not mean that I did not have a very positive response to what Snowden has done. Far from it. The same night the story broke about who was behind the leaks, I discussed the implications on an RT interview and called what he did Whistleblowing 2.0.
Why did I say that? Well, it appeared from his initial video interview with The Guardian that he had learned from previous whistleblowing cases: he had watched the media and carefully chosen a journalist, Glenn Greenwald, with a good track record on the relevant issues who would probably fight his corner fearlessly; his information clearly demonstrated that the intelligence agencies were spinning out of control and building surveillance states; he carefully chose a jurisdiction to flee to that might have the clout to protect him legally against the wrath of an over-mighty USA; and he has used his internet and media savvy to gain as much exposure and protection as quickly as possible.
Plus, he has been incredibly brave, considering the draconian war on whistleblowers that is currently being waged by the American administration. There have been three other NSA whistleblowers in recent years, all also talking about endemic surveillance. All have paid a high personal price, all displayed great bravery in the face of adversity yet, sadly, none has achieved the same level of international impact. Were we just deaf to their warnings, or has Snowden played this better?
I think a bit of both. He’s a geek, a young geek, he will have seen what happened to other whistleblowers and appears to have taken steps to avoid the same pitfalls. He has gone public to protect his family and prevent harm to his former colleagues in any ensuing witch-hunt. And he has fled the country in order to remain at liberty to argue his case, which is key to keeping the story alive for more than a week in the gadfly minds of the old media. I know, I’ve been involved in the same process.
He has blown the whistle to protect an American way of life he thinks “worth dying for”. Yet he has broadened out the issues internationally — what happens in America impacts the rest of the world. This, in my view, is crucial. I have been writing for years that the US is increasingly claiming global legal hegemony over the entire internet, as well as the right to kidnap, torture and murder foreigners at will.
The Patriot Act has not only shredded the US constitution, it also now apparently has global reach for as long as our craven governments allow it to. Now we know that this is not some abstract concept, theory or speculation — we are all potentially being watched
Edward Snowden argued his case very effectively in a live chat on The Guardian newspaper website. It became clear that he is indeed a new generation of whisteblower. This is not someone who witnessed one crime and immediately felt he had to speak out. This is a technical expert who watched, over time and with dismay, the encroaching Big Brother surveillance state that is taking over the world via the NSA and its clones.
He is young, he had faith that a new government would mean change, but in the end felt compelled to take considered action when he witnessed the unaccountable mission creep, the limited and ineffectual oversight, and the neutered politicians who rush to reassure us that everything is legal and proportionate when they really have no idea what the spy agencies get up to.
In both the US and the UK the spies repeatedly get away with lying to the notional oversight bodies about mistakes made, rules bent, and illegal operations. Former senior CIA analyst, Ray McGovern, has catalogued the US lies, and here are a few home-brewed British examples. The internet companies have also been wriggling on the hook over the last week.
Snowden appears to be very aware not only of potential state level surveillance but also the global corporatist aspect of the subversion of the basic companies most people use to access the internet — Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, Apple, Skype et al. A few pioneers have been discussing the need to protect oneself from such corporatist oversight for years, and such pioneers have largely been ignored by the mainstream: they’re “just geeks” they are “paranoid”, “tin foil hat” etc.
Edward Snowden has laid bare the truth of this globalised, corporatist Big Brother state. From his public statements so far, he seems very alive to the international aspects of what he is revealing. This is not just about Americans being snooped on, this affects everybody. We are all subject to the brutal hegemony that US securocrats and corporations are trying to impose on us, with no rights, no redress under the law.
We have already seen this with the illegal US state take-down of Kim Dotcom’s secure cloud service, Megaupload, with the global persecution of Wikileaks, with Obama’s war on whistleblowers, with the NDAA, with the asymmetric extradition cases, with the drone wars across the Middle East and Central Asia.…. where to stop?
Snowden, through his incredible act of bravery, has confirmed our worst fears. It is not just corporations that have gone global — surveillance has too. And now, thankfully, so too are whistleblowers.
What troubles me somewhat is the way that the old media is responding — even The Guardian, which broke the story. Glenn Greenwald is an excellent, campaigning journalist and I have no doubt whatsoever that he will fight to the wire for his source.
However, the newspaper as an entity seems to be holding back the free flow of information. Charitably, one could assume that this is to maximise the impact of Snowden’s disclosures. Less charitably, one could also see it as a way to eke out the stories to maximise the newspaper’s profits and glory. Again, it’s probably a bit of both.
However, I do not think this will ultimately work in the best interests of the whistleblower, who needs to get the information out there now, and get the whole debate going now.
Plus, today it was reported that a D-Notice had been issued against the UK media last week. I have written before about this invidious self-censorship with which the British media collaborates: senior editors and senior military personnel and spooks meet to agree whether or not stories may act against “national security” (still a legally undefined phrase), and ban publications accordingly. And this is “voluntary” — what does that say about our press holding power to account, when they willingly collude in the suppression of information?
Plus, some of the key journalists at The Guardian who were involved in the Wikileaks stitch-up are also now pecking away at the Snowden story. The old media are still continuing to act as a bottleneck of the free flow of information from whistleblowers to the public domain. In the post-Wikileaks era, this is a retrograde step. It is not for them to assess what the public needs to know, nor is it down to them to analyse and second-guess why any whistleblower is doing what they are doing.
As Edward Snowden stated: “The consent of the governed is not consent if it is not informed”.